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Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, Fourth Edition

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, Fourth Edition

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Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, Fourth Edition

1,259 pages
18 hours
Nov 7, 2017


The acclaimed authority on sauce making, completely updated and, for the first time, featuring invaluable step-by-step color photographs.

Every good cook knows that a great sauce is one of the easiest ways to make an exemplary dish. Since its James Beard Award–winning first edition, James Peterson’s Sauces has remained the go-to reference for professionals and sophisticated home cooks, with nearly 500 recipes and detailed explanations of every kind of sauce. This new edition, published nearly ten years after the previous one, tacks with today’s movement toward lighter, fresher flavors and preparations and modern cooking methods, while also elucidating the classic sauces and techniques that remain a foundation of excellence in the kitchen. The updated, streamlined design also features, for the first time, full-color photos that clearly show these essential sauces at every step—bringing the author’s expertise to life like never before.
Nov 7, 2017

Tentang penulis

James Peterson is the author of nine award-winning and short-listed cookbooks, including the James Beard Cookbook of the Year Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making, as well as Essentials of Cooking, Glorious French Food, and What's a Cook to Do? He teaches, writes about, photographs, lives, breathes, and cooks fine food.

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Sauces - James Peterson

To Megan Moore

Copyright © 2017 by James Peterson

All rights reserved

For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to trade.permissions@hmhco.com or to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 3 Park Avenue, 19th Floor, New York, New York 10016.



ISBN 978-0-544-81982-5 (hbk); 978-0-544-81983-2 (ebk)



Recipe contents


Foreword from the First Edition

Preface to the Fourth Edition

Preface from the First Edition

1A Short History of Sauce Making

Ancient Greek Cooking

Ancient Roman Cooking

Cooking in the Middle Ages

Renaissance Cooking: The Sixteenth Century

The Seventeenth Century

The Eighteenth Century

The Nineteenth Century

The Twentieth Century

The Twenty-First Century



Kitchen Tools and Utensils


Serving Utensils


Asian Sauces, Condiments, and Other Ingredients


Dairy Products


Mushrooms and Truffles

Nuts, Seeds, and Nut and Seed Milks and Butters

Pork Products




Other Ingredients

Thickeners and Emulsifiers

4Stocks, Glazes, and Essences





5Liaisons: an Overview

How Liaisons Thicken



Egg Yolks



Giblets and Foie Gras


Yogurt and Fresh Cheese

Wine Lees

Coral and Roe



Emulsifiers and Stabilizers

6White Sauces for Meat and Vegetables

Sauce Béchamel

Sauce Velouté

Butter-Enriched White Sauces

Improvising White Sauces

7Brown Sauces


Modern Methods for Making Brown Sauces

Naming Brown Sauces

Integral Versus Stock-Based Brown Sauces

White Wine–Based Derivative Brown Sauces

Red Wine–Based Derivative Brown Sauces

Derivative Brown Sauces Based on Fortified Wines

Vinegar-Based Derivative Brown Sauces

Derivative Brown Sauces Without Wine or Vinegar

Tips on Improving the Flavor of Brown Sauces

Improvising Brown Sauces

Tips for the Restaurant Chef

8Stock-Based and Non-integral Fish Sauces

Classic French Fish Sauces

Combining Methods

Contemporary Fish Sauces

Improvising Fish Sauces

9Integral Meat Sauces

Integral Sauces for Sautéed Meats

Integral Sauces for Roasts: The Jus

Integral Sauces Derived from Poached Meats

Integral Sauces Made from Braised Meats

Steamed Poultry

Grilled Meats

Tips for the Restaurant Chef

10 Integral Fish and Shellfish Sauces

Basic Preparations and Ingredients






Combining Methods: Fish Stews

Cooking Mollusks

11 Crustacean Sauces

Types of Crustaceans

Classic Sauces and Preparations

Tips for the Restaurant Chef

Tips on Cooking Lobsters

Using Crustacean Flavors with Meat and Fish

Improvising Crustacean Sauces

Garnitures for Crustaceans

Additional Sauces for Crustaceans

Combining Crustaceans with Other Shellfish

12 Gelées and Chauds-Froids

Natural Meat Gelées

Fish Gelées

Flavoring Gelées

Working with Gelées

Improvising Gelées


13 Hot Emulsified Sauces

Hot Emulsified Egg-Based Sauces

Classic Hot Emulsified Egg Yolk Sauces

Contemporary Variations

Sabayon Sauces

Improvising Hot Emulsified Sauces

14 Mayonnaise-Based Sauces

Precautions for Preparing Traditional Mayonnaise

Repairing Broken Mayonnaise

Storing Mayonnaise

Lightening Mayonnaise

Stabilized Mayonnaise

Classic Mayonnaise-Based Sauces

Mayonnaise Variations

Mayonnaise-Based Seafood Sauces

Mayonnaise-Based Meat Sauces

Improvising Mayonnaise-Based Sauces

Tips for the Restaurant Chef

15 Butter Sauces

Beurre Blanc Sauces

Clarified Butter

Broken Butter Sauces

Compound Butters

Whipped Butters

16 Foams

Sabayon for Foams and Emulsified Sauces

17 Salad Sauces, Vinaigrettes, Salsas, and Relishes

Cream-Based Cold Sauces

Yogurt-Based Cold Sauces

Oils, Vinegars, and Vinaigrettes


Chutneys and Relishes

Fruit Sauces

18 Purées and Purée-Thickened Sauces

Equipment for Preparing Purées





Sweet Peppers







Root Vegetables

Nuts and Seeds



Beans and Other Legumes

Using Purées with Other Methods

19 Pasta Sauces

Pasta Styles

A Note about Serving Sizes

Olive Oil and Butter: The Base for the Simplest Sauces

Cream-Based Pasta Sauces

Sauces Based on Preserved Pork Products

Seafood Sauces

Vegetable Sauces

Meat Sauces

Tomato Sauces

20 Asian Sauces

Japanese Sauces

Korean Sauces

Thai and Vietnamese Sauces

Indonesian Sauces

Chinese Sauces

Indian Sauces

21 Dessert Sauces

Crème Anglaise


Chocolate Sauces

Caramel Sauces

Fruit Coulis and Sauces

Dessert Gelées

The Relative Thickening Power of Liaisons




Recipe Contents

1A Short History of Sauce Making

Spice Mixture

Gold-Plated Chicken with Ginger, Saffron, and Almonds

Leeks with Almond Milk, Cinnamon, and Roses

Chicken with Capers and Oysters

Chicken with Anchovies, Olives, Capers, and Orange Juice


Red Wine Mustard

Dried Chile Cream Sauce

4Stocks, Glazes, and Essences

Brown Chicken Stock

Red Wine Chicken Stock

White Chicken Stock

Chicken Demi-Glace

Brown Beef Stock

White Veal Stock

Brown Veal Stock

Fish Stock (Fish Fumet)

Vegetable Stock (Court-Bouillon or Nage)

Glace de Viande (Meat Glaze)

Fish Glaze (Glace de Poisson)

Meat Jus

Japanese-Style Mushroom Sauce

5Liaisons: an Overview

White Wine Sauce with Three Liaisons

Butter-Thickened Made-to-Order Red Wine Sauce

Sautéed Pigeon Breasts with Giblet Sauce

Roast Chicken with Garlic and Foie Gras Emulsion

Roast Turkey with Jus, Gravy, or Giblet Gravy

Civet de Lapin (Braised Rabbit Stew)

Sauce Rouennaise I

Yogurt-Finished Sauce

Sauce Rouille

6White Sauces for Meat and Vegetables

Sauce Béchamel

Modernist Béchamel

Coconut Béchamel

Sauce Mornay

Cauliflower Gratin

Sauce Soubise I

Sauce Soubise II

Sauce Crème (Cream Sauce)

Sauce Velouté

Modernist Velouté

Sauce Suprême

Sauce Allemande

Flourless Sauce Allemande

Broth-and-Butter Sauce

White Sauce Based on Reduced Cream

Low-Fat Cream

Egg Yolk–Thickened White Sauce

Sauce Aurore (Tomato-Flavored Velouté)

Sauce Bonnefoy (White Wine Bordelaise)

Sauce Chivry (Herb Sauce)

Curry Sauce

Sauce Estragon (Tarragon Sauce)

Sauce Hongroise (Paprika Sauce)

Sauce Ravigote (Shallot and Herb Sauce)

Sauce Poulette (Mushroom and Lemon Sauce)

Tarragon Sauce

Sauce Régence Blanche (Rhine Wine, Mushroom, and Truffle Sauce)

Sauce Villageoise (Mushroom and Onion Sauce)

Sauce Albuféra (Red Pepper Sauce)

Sauce Ivoire (Ivory Sauce)

7Brown Sauces

Escoffier’s Demi-Glace or Sauce Espagnole

Modern Demi-Glace and Glace de Viande

Sauce Chasseur (Mushroom Sauce for Chicken)

Sauce Diable

Sauce Estragon (Tarragon Sauce)

Sauce Fines Herbes

Sauce Hussarde (Prosciutto-Scented Horseradish Sauce)

Sauce Régence (Rhine Wine and Truffle Sauce)

Sauce Robert (White Wine–Mustard Sauce)

Sauce Charcutière (White Wine and Gherkin Sauce)

Sauce Duxelles (Chopped Mushroom Sauce)

Sauce Salmis

Sauce Zingara B

Sauce Financière with Truffle Spheres

Sauce Bordelaise

Bordelaise Sauce Made with Red Wine Stock

Meurette Sauce (Burgundian Red Wine Sauce)

Sauce Rouennaise II

Sauce Madère (Madeira Sauce)

Sauce Porto (Port Sauce)

Port and Mushroom Sauce

Sauce Financière

Sweet-and-Sour Sauces: Gastrique

Sauce Bigarade (Orange Sauce for Duck)

Sauce Romaine (Raisin and Pine Nut Sauce for Game)

Sweet-and-Sour Sauce for Ribs or Brisket

Marinade for Poivrade Sauces

Sauce Poivrade (Pepper-Flavored Game Sauce)

Sauce Chevreuil (Red Wine Sauce for Game)

Sauce Grand-Veneur (Cream-Finished Sauce Poivrade)

Sauce Diane (Whipped Cream and Truffle-Finished Game Sauce)

Sauce Moscovite (Juniper-Infused Sauce Poivrade)

Sauce Piquante

Sauce Zingara A

Sauce Périgueux and Sauce Périgourdine

Tournedos Rossini (Filets of Beef with Sauce Périgueux)

Sauce aux Champignons (Mushroom Sauce)

Sauce Italienne

Porterhouse with Improvised Red Wine and Mushroom Sauce

8Stock-Based and Non-integral Fish Sauces

Classic Fish Velouté

Modern Fish Velouté

Classic Sauce Normande

Modern Sauce Normande

Sauce Vin Blanc (White Wine Fish Sauce)

Sea Urchin Sauce

Red Wine Sauce for Salmon


Tomato-Based Vinaigrette/Hollandaise Sauce for Fish

Vinaigrette- and Court-Bouillon–Based Chive Sauce

9Integral Meat Sauces

Chicken with Fines Herbes

Poulet Sauté à la Marengo (Chicken with Tomatoes, Olives, and Mushrooms)

Steak with Green Peppercorn Sauce

Pork Chops with Onion Purée–Thickened Sauce (Soubise)

Wondra-Thickened Gravy

Chicken Jus with Beurre Noisette

Oven-Roasted Chicken with Natural Jus

Roast Rack of Lamb with Natural Jus

Pot au Feu

Poached Chicken

Poached Chicken with Garlic Emulsion

Long Brown-Braised Veal Shoulder Clod

Braised Sweetbreads

Red Wine Pot Roast

Pork Shoulder Chops with White Wine and Prunes

Red Wine Beef Stew

Beef Irish Stew

Poulet en Cocotte (Whole Chicken in a Casserole)

Coq au Vin (Rooster Braised in Red Wine)

Chicken with Red Wine Sauce (Sometimes Called Coq au Vin)

Cold Red Wine–Chicken Daube

Chicken Fricassée

Chicken Mole

Chicken with Verjuice, Saffron, Medieval Spices, and Mint

Chicken with Tomatillo and Assorted Chile Sauces

Braised Duck Thighs

Duck Breasts with Peaches or Other Fruits

Poularde à la Vapeur (Steamed Fattened Chicken)

Grilled Game Birds in Smoke-Scented Broth

10 Integral Fish and Shellfish Sauces

Tarragon-Infused Hot Emulsified Egg Yolk Sauce for Fish

Stabilized Butter Sauce for à la Nage

Sea Scallops à la Nage

Fillets of Dover Sole Bercy

Braised Fillets of Wild Striped Bass with Cockles and Norman Butter

Sole Marguery

Sautéed Sea Scallops with Coral-Thickened Court-Bouillon

Sautéed Salmon Fillet with Sorrel Cream Sauce

Steamed Bass Fillets with Yogurt Curry Sauce

Red Wine Matelotes

Squid with Red Wine–Ink Sauce

Octopus Daube

Oysters with Champagne Sauce

Scallops Étuvés with Chives

11 Crustacean Sauces

Crustacean Butter

Classic Sauce Américaine

Classic Sauce Cardinal

Classic Sauce Nantua

Nouvelle Cuisine Sauce Cardinal or Sauce Nantua

Nouvelle Cuisine Crayfish Sauce

Leeks with Lobster Coral Sauce

Steamed Lobster with Parsley Sauce

Four-Minute Lobster with a Sauce Made from Its Coral

Chicken with Crayfish

Japanese-Style Crab Sauce

Mixed Shellfish Fricassée

12 Gelées and Chauds-Froids

Classic Meat Gelée

Clarification for Meat Gelée

Classic Fish Gelée

Court-Bouillon Gelée

Red Wine Meat Gelée

Port and Cracked Pepper Gelée for Foie Gras

Lobster with Sauternes Gelée

Sherry-Duck Gelée

Fines Herbes Gelée

Morel Gelée

Saffron and Tomato Fish Gelée

Salade Grecque in Court-Bouillon Gelée

Foie Gras en Gelée

Parsleyed Ham Terrine (Jambon Persillé)

Cold Braised Beef (Boeuf Mode)

Salmon and Truffle Hure

Chicken Breasts with Smoked Gelée

Sorrel Chaud-Froid

13 Hot Emulsified Sauces

Sauce Béarnaise

Sauce Hollandaise

Modernist Stable Hollandaise

Sauce Choron (Sauce Béarnaise with Tomato)

Sauce Maltaise (Orange-Flavored Sauce Hollandaise)

Sauce Mousseline (Hollandaise with Whipped Cream)

Sauce Noisette (Beurre Noisette Sauce)

Beurre Noisette Emulsion

Sauce Foyot or Valois (Sauce Béarnaise with Meat Glaze)

Sauce Tyrolienne (Oil-Based Sauce Béarnaise)

Sauce Rubens (Anchovy and Crustacean Sauce for Fish)

Braised Fillets of Sea Bass with Sabayon Sauce

Sea Scallops with Sea Urchin Emulsion

Roast Chicken with Garlic and Saffron Nage

14 Mayonnaise-Based Sauces

Traditional Mayonnaise

Sauce Verte (Green Mayonnaise)

Sauce Aïoli (Garlic Mayonnaise)

Saffron-Flavored Aïoli

Sauce Andalouse (Tomato and Sweet Red Pepper Mayonnaise)

Sauce Chantilly (Mayonnaise with Whipped Cream)

Mustard-Flavored Mayonnaise

Sauce Rémoulade (Caper and Herb Mayonnaise)

Sauce Suédoise (Apple-Horseradish Mayonnaise)

Sauce Gribiche

Sauce Tartare (Tartar Sauce)

Hazelnut Mayonnaise

Cilantro and Hot Pepper Mayonnaise

Morel Mayonnaise

Curry Yogurt Mayonnaise

Sabayon-Based Lobster Mayonnaise

Bourride Sètois (Nage Bound with Mayonnaise)

Lobster Coral Mayonnaise

15 Butter Sauces

Traditional Beurre Blanc (Beurre Nantais)

Stabilized Court-Bouillon Beurre Blanc

Beurre Rouge (Red Wine–Butter Sauce)

Beurre Citron (Lemon Beurre Blanc)

Beurre Fondu (Emulsified Butter)

Beurre Noisette

Fillets of Dover Sole à la Meunière

Almond Butter

Anchovy Butter

Bercy Butter

Chivry Butter

Chlorophyll Butter

Colbert Butter

Garlic Butter

Hazelnut Butter (Beurre de Noisette)

Maître d’ Butter (Beurre Maître d’Hôtel)

Marchand de Vin Butter

Montpellier Butter

Mustard Butter

Paprika Butter

Smoked Salmon Butter

Snail Butter

Sweet Red Pepper Butter

Tarragon Butter

Tomato Butter

Truffle Butter

Sea Scallop Coral Butter

Sea Urchin Roe Butter

Caviar Butter

Pigeon Sauce

Foie Gras Butter

Whipped Butter for Grilled or Sautéed Fish

16 Foams

Truffle Butter Foam

Cold Neroli Foam

White Wine Foam

Cold Fruit Juice Foam

Tomato (or Other Juice) Foam

Cold Lemon Pastis Foam

Hot Curry and Coconut Foam

Hot Savory Sabayon as a Sauce Base or Simple Foam

Hot Foie Gras Foam

Warm Caramelized Butter (Ghee) Foam

Riesling Spoom

17 Salad Sauces, Vinaigrettes, Salsas, and Relishes

Herb-Scented Thickened Cream for Salads

Mint and Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Cold-Infused Herb Oil

Basil or Chervil Oil

Ancho Chile Oil

Chinese-Style Chile Oil

Sweet Red Pepper Oil

Tomato Oil

Morel or Porcini Oil

Spice-Infused Oils

Provençal Herb Vinegar

Orange Vinegar

Raspberry Vinegar

Basic Vinaigrette for Green Salads

Stable Vinaigrette

Creamy Vinaigrette for Salads

Honey-Mustard Vinaigrette

Wild Mushroom and Walnut Oil Salad

Neroli, Petitgrain, and Orange Blossom Vinaigrette

Salsa Verde

Sauce Ravigote

Mint Sauce for Lamb

Hot Tomato Vinaigrette

Warm Sweet Red Pepper and Garlic Vinaigrette

Basil Vinaigrette for Roast Lamb

Hot Hazelnut and Parsley Vinaigrette

Mexican Salsa

Truffle Salsa

Tropical Fruit Salsa

Sweet-and-Sour Fruit Chutney

Green Tomato Chutney

Kumquat Relish

Mostarda di Cremona

Caper and Cornichon Relish

Tomato and Onion Chutney

Cilantro or Mint Chutney

Cumberland Sauce

Cranberry Sauce

Tamarind Sauce

18 Purées and Purée-Thickened Sauces

Raw Tomato Concassée

Cooked Tomato Concassée

Tomato Coulis

Emulsified Tomato Purée

Tomato-Thickened Almond Sauce

Tomatillo Sauce

Sorrel Purée

Sorrel Sauce for Fish

Stabilized Sorrel Sauce for Fish

Baked Garlic Purée

Sweet Pepper Purée

Potato Purée

Skorthaliá (Potato-Garlic Purée)

Poached Chicken with Tarragon

Potato-Thickened Sauce for Pork

Stewed Onion Purée

Sauce Soubise III

Stiff Parsley Purée

Plain Parsley Purée for Finishing Sauces

Watercress Purée

Mushroom Purée

Cauliflower and Galangal Sauce

Cardamom–Nut Butter Sauce

Nut Curry Sauce

Cashew Sauce

Picada (Garlic-Almond Purée)

Chestnut Purée

Shrimp with Coconut and Peanut Sauce

Walnut and Parmesan Cheese Sauce for Pasta

Genoese Pesto

Indian Mint Pesto


Green Olive and Caper Tapenade

Fava Bean Purée

Lentil Purée

White or Flageolet Bean Purée

Watercress and Mushroom Sauce for Fish

Parsley Emulsion

19 Pasta Sauces

Pasta with Butter or Olive Oil

Pasta with Butter and Sage

Spaghetti with Streetwalker’s Sauce

Spaghetti with Black Truffles, Garlic, and Anchovies

Pappardelle with Dried Porcini Mushrooms

Tortellini or Tagliatelle with Walnut Sauce

Spaghetti with Pancetta, Eggs, and Parmesan Cheese

Spaghetti with Clams or Mussels

Spaghetti with Squid or Baby Octopus

Fettuccine and Shrimp with Crustacean Cream Sauce

Spaghetti with Tuna

Spaghetti with Artichokes, Garlic, and Parsley

Orecchiette with Cooked Green Leafy Vegetables

Fettuccine with Peas


Pappardelle with Tuscan Duck Sauce

Macaroni with Baked Tomato Sauce

20 Asian Sauces

Primary Dashi

Basic Japanese Broth-Like Sauce with Mirin, Soy Sauce, and Sake

Salmon with Basic Japanese Broth-Like Sauce

Grilled Swordfish with Clams and Broth-Like Miso Sauce

Teriyaki Sauce

Teriyaki-Glazed Fish, Steak, or Chicken

Yakitori Sauce

Chicken, Meat, or Vegetable Yakitori

Tosa Sauce

Ponzu Sauce

Miso Sauce

Basic Japanese Salad Dressing

Korean Vinegar Dipping Sauce

Vietnamese Spicy Fish Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Thai Red Curry Paste

Thai Green Curry Paste

Improvising Thai Curries Without Curry Pastes

Chinese Ginger- and Garlic-Flavored Vinaigrette

Sweet and Spicy Sesame Sauce

Chinese Mustard Sauce

Traditional Garam Masala (Moghul Garam Masala)

Modern Garam Masala (Punjabi Garam Masala)

Bengali Five-Spice Mixture (Panch Phoran)

Sambaar Powder

Basic Curry Powder

Lamb Curry with Garam Masala and Mixed Vegetables

21 Dessert Sauces

Crème Anglaise

Coconut Crème Anglaise

Eggless Crème Anglaise



Chocolate Butter Sauce (Hot Fudge Sauce)

Caramel Cream Sauce

Caramel Butter Sauce

Butterscotch Sauce

Pear-Butterscotch Sauce

Raspberry Coulis

Cranberry Coulis

Pear Coulis

Strawberry Coulis

Kiwi Coulis

Blood Orange Concentrate

Berry Gelée

Sauternes Gelée


When the end of a book project approaches, I’m amazed by how many people are needed to make an idea a reality. I must start by thanking my editor, Stephanie Fletcher, who has been with me since the beginning of this new revision. She not only guided the schedule (such as imposing deadlines on me), but learned along with me the many new concepts presented in this edition.

I’d like to thank production editor Jamie Selzer, art director Melissa Lotfy, and production coordinator Kevin Watt, and designer Alison Lew at Vertigo Design, for their amazing input into the design of the book. Copy editors are essential in my life, as much would slip by otherwise. Thank you, Suzanne Fass, copy editor with relentless attention to detail.

Here, at my studio/office, I’ve had the pleasure to work with some amazing people, mostly young, who inspire me and help propel me to the next stage. Julia Choi provided the hands in the earlier part of the book and gave me a unique perspective on Korean cooking. Jermaine Haughton was here from the beginning. We used his hands in some of the photos, but more important, he kept the computer and the camera software working. Ricky Dolinsky is one of those crazy people whom I am instantly drawn to. He has a mind grounded in the scientific method. He also happens to know a lot about modernist cuisine. So his hands not only appear in the photos, but he helped me test recipes and provided valuable ideas.

It must be said that artists build upon each other’s work. I would have been lost without The Cooking Lab’s giant opus, Modernist Cuisine. I must also acknowledge the contributions of Hervé This, who was kind enough to interview with me on my last visit to Paris. Thanks also to the team at Modernist Pantry (modernistpantry.com) for answering my many questions.

There are some people without whom my life would be very different. Laurie Knoop has been by my side for well over a decade. She follows my work and provides invaluable help. She introduced me to Jermaine, Julia, and Ricky. I couldn’t do what I do without her.

My friend Rhona Poritzky keeps me in one piece by calling every day from Paris. Joel Hoffman has saved me from much of the torture of writing alone when assaulted by uncertainty and doubt. My love for Paul Geltner, whom I’ve known since we studied together in Paris in the late seventies, sustains me through much. I have other friends, Coletta Perry, Megan Moore, and Sukey Pett, who have always encouraged me, loved me, and pushed me to higher goals.

My agents, Elise and Arnold Goodman, have been with me since the first edition of Sauces, over twenty-five years ago, and have fought for me for all that time.

My husband, Zelik Mintz, is not only my spouse, but my best friend. We have been together for twenty-six years.

Foreword from the First Edition

Sauces: Classical and Contemporary Sauce Making , faithful to its title, is a synthesis of the past and present. At nearly a century’s remove, James Peterson has done for sauces that which Escoffier did for the cuisine of La Belle Époque : simplifying and streamlining methods and techniques and lightening the food to meet the demands of an ever more hurried society, while respecting the architecture of traditional cuisine and stressing the vital importance of fresh produce.

In his introduction to the first edition of Le Guide Culinaire, Escoffier wrote, I wanted to create a tool, rather than a book . . . a constant companion, always within hand’s reach . . . it is reserved especially for young people; for those who, beginning today, will be leaders in their field twenty years hence. No words could serve as a better introduction to Sauces.

Sauces is, above all, a manual for the professional cook and as such, it will rapidly become a classic and indispensable reference in professional kitchens. But it is much more than a manual, it is a romance as well—James Peterson’s romance with the kitchen—and it is easily accessible to the home cook, to whom particular explanations and suggestions are addressed throughout. There are important sections on improvisation replete with hints and possible paths to follow, lest the reader forget that cooking is a creative art. But that creativity cannot exist in a vacuum; the cook must have a firm hold on the basic precepts of cooking before spreading his or her wings.

After a couple of decades of anarchy and chaos in the kitchen disguised as la nouvelle cuisine, a treatise such as Sauces, grounded in common sense, infuses one with renewed faith.


Preface to the Fourth Edition

When Sauces was translated into French, the translator proposed the title L’Art de Bien Cuisiner ( The Art of Cooking Well ) because she realized that the book is about much more than sauces. To prepare a sauce well, especially an integral sauce made from the juices released by the food being prepared, one must know how to cook. Some of these methods are simple (beurre blanc, despite its reputation, is a snap) while others, such as a perfectly caramelized jus, can be tricky.

In the first edition of Sauces, I integrated the techniques of la nouvelle cuisine—learned in France in the 1970s—with classic sauces, some dating from centuries past. I brought forth the distinction between integral sauces and non-integral sauces, two terms I invented to describe foods in which the sauce is either derived from juices released by the food being cooked or, in the case of non-integral sauces, from stock and/or other ingredients often designed to emulate integral sauces. I also introduced the notion of unbound sauces, best served in soup plates, containing no thickener and no fat.

The second edition introduced so-called foreign sauces (meaning not French) and included hierarchical systems for cuisines such as Indian and Chinese. While these cuisines don’t receive the attention of French classics and their derivatives in this book, I do introduce methods for improvising such sauces. In any case, many of the techniques first presented in earlier editions are applicable to these cuisines.

The third edition further expanded the premises of the earlier editions by adding recipes that illustrate additional nuances.

This fourth edition includes the most radical additions, those of so-called modernist cuisine. The emphasis is on using these techniques and ingredients within the context of more traditional approaches. Modernist techniques and ingredients are given relevance by how they function within the classic/nouvelle cuisine/mother sauce continuum and hierarchy. In my preface to the third edition, I stated that the dining public had become insistent on having a sauce with every dish. Of course, this gave my book a raison d’être, but the public, fickle as it is, has come to look at some traditional sauces as archaic. While much of the premise of my book is based on sauces that reflect and extend the flavors of the food at hand, modern sauces have become condiment-like in that they may taste nothing like the food they are saucing—they are designed to offer contrast. Such has been the tectonic shift in the way most Americans dine today.

Sauces exist along a continuum with highly contrasting sauces on one end (such as tartar sauce, mustard, ketchup, chimichurri sauce) and integral sauces on the other end, of which the archetype is a natural jus. While over time our tastes and expectations have shifted toward contrasting sauces, like anything in the culinary world, this will no doubt change.

While Sauces does indeed address condiments, my feeling is that they can emerge straight from the imagination and don’t require an elaborate, hierarchical, and interlocking system. Some distinctions do exist: Chutneys are different than relishes, and dipping sauces are different than glazes. With these and other simple distinctions, chefs can easily categorize their creations and work within a loose system to invent condiment sauces.

While there are those who question a rigid system that has evolved over centuries, it has long been my feeling that artistic creativity is best accomplished within limits, be they rules, budget, or limited access to ingredients. The unconscious seems to work best when it isn’t given absolute free rein.

My goal has been to synthesize the methods, techniques, and ingredients used in Western (and to a lesser degree in Eastern) cooking into a large, well-integrated system. For example, a classic bordelaise sauce is made with demi-glace that itself has been thickened with flour. A nouvelle cuisine version is likely to include glace de viande (thickened with reduction alone) and a fair amount of butter. A modernist version might include an emulsifier or emulsion stabilizer, such as liquid lecithin, worked into the butter before it is whisked into the sauce.

This fourth edition provides a quantum leap in that it addresses many of the techniques, equipment, and ingredients used in modernist cooking, a term first made popular by Nathan Myhrvold and his team in their magnificent five-volume set Modernist Cuisine. While many of us associate modernist cooking with elaborate and meticulously prepared foods served in rarefied settings, its techniques and ingredients can be incorporated into virtually all types of sauces. One characteristic of this new approach is the use of ingredients that may to some sound like suspect chemicals. Most of these ingredients are organic and derived from natural sources like seaweed, algae, various fermented roots, and an immense variety of tapioca flour derivatives. Most revolutionary is the use of hydrocolloids, substances that thicken, emulsify, or stabilize emulsions. These ingredients are usually used in minute quantities and, unless used incorrectly, have little or no flavor of their own. While many modernist preparations border on the bizarre and seem to rely on unconventional juxtapositions, flavors, and surprise, in Sauces, they are integrated into a traditional system that includes classic sauces, nouvelle cuisine sauces, unbound sauces, and modernist sauces.

This new edition contains a newly constructed liaison chart that compares the thickening power of various starches, fats, and hydrocolloids. For example, you might want to use xanthan gum to thicken a sauce having the consistency of a beurre blanc. A glance at the chart will show the amount of xanthan gum, or other ingredient, required to make a sauce of similar thickness.

I believe that we needn’t be restricted to any single technique, tradition, or system, but that all three approaches—classic, nouvelle, and modernist—can be used by the saucier to create a finished sauce. An example might be a béarnaise in which the egg yolks are stabilized with an emulsifier or hydrocolloid and the finished sauce piped out with a whipping siphon. With all this in mind, the saucier will need to integrate these various ingredients and techniques to make a finished sauce designed depending on budget, formality, and availability of ingredients. For example, a stock can be reduced six times or so (instead of fifteen times for demi-glace and thirty times for glace de viande) and thickened with a delicate hydrocolloid. Depending on its style, the sauce may then be finished with cream and/or butter in varying amounts. Or cream and butter can be dispensed with and the sauce finished with beurre manié or other traditional thickener. Or the sauce may be left unbound.

When you better understand the underlying traditions that underscore our work, you are able to expand and invent, making your own contributions to this complex and varied art.

Preface from the First Edition

Sauce making allows the cook more freedom to work with flavors, textures, and color than any other area of cooking. A carefully constructed sauce is often prepared in several stages. Each stage has rules of its own and requires the close attention of the chef, cook, or saucier. Unlike roasts or cakes, which need only to be checked from time to time, the construction of a sauce requires constant tasting and fine tuning to balance its flavors and perfect its consistency.

A sauce is never eaten alone but exists to complement the food it is designed to accompany. Some sauces function as condiments by contrasting with foods, as mustard balances the richness of pork or the direct flavor of grilled foods. Other sauces—the natural drippings from a roast or the liquid from a stew—extend the intrinsic flavors of foods. Most sauces lie between these two poles: Disparate or contrasting tastes are superimposed over a background of the food’s natural flavors.

In the last twenty years, many of the techniques of sauce making have changed. Chefs are not only eager to invent new taste combinations and improve upon older methods but have set out to make sauces healthier and less rich. In the 1970s, chefs in France and the United States began to eliminate flour—a standard ingredient since the eighteenth century—from their sauces and replace it with cream and butter. The latest trend is to eliminate the cream and butter and experiment with even newer methods.

Most of the training available to chefs does little to explain these newer sauce-making techniques, and the typical beginning cook is forced to learn them on the job. No amount of book learning can provide a substitute for hands-on experience, but it is helpful to understand the concepts of sauce making and to have a rudimentary knowledge of how ingredients behave and why.

Sauces presents the basic sauce-making techniques that have been used in the past and that are popular today. Because most discussions of sauce making found in textbooks or books on French cooking for the amateur contain only variations of classic sauces or a cursory treatment of contemporary methods, both approaches are discussed and analyzed herein. With a fundamental knowledge of the variety of sauce-making methods available, the chef can make his or her own decisions based on the needs of the clientele, the budget, and style of the restaurant.

Sauces is meant to encourage the chef or saucier to improvise. Basic sauce-making concepts are emphasized, and recipes that exemplify the techniques are included, but this book is not designed as a collection of sauce recipes. An attempt is made to show how liquids, flavorings, and thickeners work and to explain traditional approaches and combinations that will provide the chief with technical guidelines and underlying aesthetic principles.

Although Sauces can be used as a quick reference guide, a useful approach is to read it through for ideas and then to apply the ideas to the ingredients on hand, the guests, the wines, and the seasons. A basic concept is far more powerful for an improvising chef than a recipe, because concepts can be adapted to a far greater variety of ingredients and situations.

The number and kinds of sauces served during a meal must be well thought out. Sauce-making expertise is of little value if the arrangement and juxtaposition of the sauces are not carefully planned and the myriad factors inherent in the design of a meal closely considered. Every meal is an event that happens only once—a kind of reflection or distillation or a grouping of people in a particular setting.

Remember not to serve too many sauces in a single meal; one is often appropriate, and two is usually the maximum. If more than one sauce is served at the same meal, make sure that the flavors, colors, and textures of the sauces contrast while the style remains the same. The time of year and the formality of the meal will significantly affect the kinds of sauces that are best to serve.

Beginning chefs and amateur cooks sometimes include too many contrasting colors or flavors on the same plate. It is better to meld the flavors of a sauce carefully into an integral and seemingly simple whole than to cover the plate with different-flavored garnitures or more than one sauce. Usually sauces (and foods) move from light to dark and from cold to hot in the succession of courses, to avoid fatiguing the palate (or the eye). Avoid strong sauces at the beginning of the meal unless you are planning to follow through with something at least equally robust.

Sauces should be chosen according to the style and formality of a meal. An aioli or a Mexican salsa is more likely to be served at an informal summer lunch than is a sauce poivrade, which is classic, formal, and best for fall or winter.

Sauces is organized around the principles of classic French cooking. This is not because classic French sauces are inherently better than regional sauces or sauces from other countries, but because they are based on a rigid and systematic framework that is easy to remember, build on, and refer to.

Although French cooking also has an elaborate vocabulary for discussing sauce making and general cooking techniques, much of the traditional nomenclature is confusing and contradictory. Many of the cornerstone sauces of French cooking have changed or are made in new ways. Much of this nomenclature is explained in both the text and glossary.

Despite its French orientation, the concepts and techniques explained in this book can be adapted to other cuisines. Once the saucier is familiar with basic sauce-making techniques and understands how various ingredients behave, he or she will be able to invent new combinations, devise new interpretations of classics, and more easily execute unfamiliar recipes.



Perhaps in no period in history have a nation’s eating habits changed so profoundly as during the last three decades. Until twenty or thirty years ago, it seemed that the history of sauce making and cooking was complete. Thirty years ago, if asked about the future of classical cooking, a French chef would likely have replied that all the classical dishes had been invented by the end of the nineteenth century and that there was no place for new combinations or techniques. In spite of this, the previous decades have seen the advent of nouvelle cuisine , with its increased experimentation and richer preparations; an increased familiarity with flavorful ingredients from around the globe; and most recently the simultaneous ascendance of two diametrically opposed movements—farm-to-table cooking and modernist cuisine. After a long period of established culinary canon, few would have predicted the sophistication and enthusiasm for cooking that exists today.

Why begin with a history of sauce making? A rule of cooking—and of other creative arts—is that creation must take place in the context of a tradition and set of aesthetic values. At a time when creativity and originality in cooking are considered more important than reliably executing classic dishes, one of the difficulties confronting American chefs is the lack of a rigid traditional system of cooking like the system that France adopted in the middle of the nineteenth century, which went virtually unchallenged for over a hundred years. America has a rich culinary heritage, but its cooking from many different regions has never crystallized into a national cuisine. While the limitations imposed by a rigid traditional system can be stultifying, they also provide structure. This protects the chef who is working out a combination of flavors, an innovative presentation, or a new juxtaposition of textures from eccentricity and excess.

Many chefs have been (and some still are) stifled by the dogmatism of classical French cooking. Until recently, straying from classic tradition was considered heretical and signified only ignorance or audacity on the part of the chef. Creativity was limited to interpretation within the classic structure.

As an American teaching in a French cooking school, I was particularly suspect if I deviated even slightly from classic norms. Any innovation or improvement was dismissed as an American eccentricity. My only defense was to find the idea in the literature of French cooking. By delving far enough back, it became clear that classical French cooking was only a stage in the evolution of cooking, rather than the culmination and assimilation of the entire history of French cooking. I also discovered that most seemingly new, even startling, combinations had been used before.

A true history of sauce making is not easy to chart. Research is limited to the written word, which until the nineteenth century described only the eating habits of the rich. Cookbooks, which have been around for thousands of years, describe an era’s affinity for certain flavors and ingredients, but early cookbooks rarely give quantities. Left merely with a description of flavors and techniques, it is hard to guess how foods tasted. But a description of how flavors have been used over the centuries is often surprising—dishes that seem new or even eccentric often have a lengthy history. Veal with raspberries, roast meats with saffron and ginger, chicken with oysters—all were written about from 500 to 200 years ago.

Cookbooks also fail to describe the context of foods within a meal. Recipes are presented with little or no description of how they should be served, in what order, or with what wines. When nineteenth-century authors describe meals in a social context (Balzac and Zola are good sources), we begin to get a sense of how rich and poor ate and which foods were reserved for special occasions.

Ancient Greek Cooking

Some historians have theorized that the Greek dietetic system, which was closely linked with Greek medicine, had a powerful influence on both Western European and Middle Eastern cuisine. Unfortunately, no complete copies of Greek cookbooks survive. Much of what we know of Greek gastronomy is found in the writings of Archestrate, which focus on the origin of the products—giving recommendations on how to purchase various foods, especially fish—rather than the techniques used in their preparation. The cooking techniques that are mentioned are simple and direct—usually frying or roasting. (Archestrate’s most famous recipe recommends that a hare be roasted rare and simply sprinkled with salt.) Cheese and oil are often used in sauces and are sometimes flavored with cumin. One fish recipe warns against preparation by a Sicilian or an Italian, who will ruin it with too much cheese, vinegar, and asafetida-infused brine.

Ancient Roman Cooking

Much of our knowledge of Roman cooking comes from Marcus Gavius Apicius, who lived in the first century AD. Many of the ingredients used in Apicius’s recipes are seen again in medieval European cooking. Although reproductions of his manuscripts have been available in Europe since the Middle Ages, it is difficult to know whether the style of medieval European cooking was a direct result of his influence or the natural outcome of preparing food in a particular cultural and geographical climate.

Although many of the ingredients in Apicius’s text are familiar and sometimes even appetizing to the modern reader, we have little idea how they tasted because of the almost universal use of garum. Garum, a liquid mixture based on fish entrails, was used abundantly in Roman cooking, not only alone as a sauce but in combination with other ingredients such as leeks, onions, a wide variety of spices, wine, honey, and olive oil. Apparently it was not a haphazard conglomeration of ingredients: A note in Apicius’s De re coquinaria describes a remedy for garum that has taken on an unpleasant odor or too salty a taste, implying that there were criteria for garum. We can only guess how it tasted; the closest modern equivalents are probably the fermented fish sauces used in Southeast Asian cooking (nampla in Thailand, nuoc mam in Vietnam, patis in the Philippines).

Most Roman sauces, in addition to garum, called for honey as well as a variety of spices and herbs. Many of these are still used today but are more common in Asian cooking than in European cuisines: cumin, coriander leaves (cilantro), lovage, asafetida (a stinky spice that turns surprisingly mild when cooked, popular in Indian cooking), rue, dill, bay (laurel) berries, and caraway. Wine and vinegar were often used in Roman cooking, but the wines that were served—and probably used in cooking—were often flavored with spices and combined with honey. The Roman predilection for adding honey to wine probably indicates that naturally fermented sweet wines were not common. There are, however, references to a sweet wine made with raisins (passo). Sauces were sometimes colored with wine that had been cooked down (defritum) to an intense inky color.

Many Roman recipes tell the reader to bind the sauce, often without saying what to use. Some recipes mention starch. Others suggest whole eggs.

Below are several sauces translated from Apicius’s De re coquinaria (via the French translation by Jacques André; bracketed additions are mine).

Cumin Sauce for Oysters. [Crushed] pepper, [chopped] lovage, parsley, dried mint, malobathre [cassia leaves, related to but not to be confused with cinnamon, which at the time was worth more than its weight in gold], a little more [sic] cumin, honey, vinegar, and garum.

Sauce for Gourds. Grind together pepper, cumin, and rue. Cover the mixture of spices with vinegar, garum, and a small amount of oil. Cook the sliced gourds in the sauce. Bind the sauce with starch, and sprinkle with pepper.

Celery Purée. Boil the celery in water containing bicarbonate of soda [technique sometimes used today to keep vegetables green]. Drain and chop finely. With a mortar and pestle, grind together pepper, lovage, oregano, onion. Moisten the mixture with wine, garum, and oil. Cook the spice mixture in a pot, and add the chopped celery.

Sauce for Cardoons. Grind together fresh rue, mint, coriander, and fennel. Add pepper, lovage, honey, garum, and oil.

Cooking in the Middle Ages

There is very little literature describing the cuisine of Europe—indeed, there is very little literature of any sort—between the fall of Rome and the late Middle Ages. Most historians agree that the cooking of Europe was influenced by the Saracens, whose cuisine was in turn influenced by the ancient Greeks. The limited number of cookery books of medieval Europe reflect the influence of Middle Eastern ingredients (often originating in India) and the acquired tastes of the returning Crusaders.

Many Crusaders to the Middle East in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries found the lifestyle there more inviting and never returned to Europe. Those who did return brought back ingredients never before tasted in Europe, including sugar (in cane form), almonds, pistachios, pomegranates, citrus fruits, and spinach. Spices had been used in Western Europe since Roman times, but their variety was limited, and they were served only in noble and royal circles. As the Crusaders returned, the use of spices became more common, as they not only provided flavor but probably masked the taste of tainted meat.

Verjuice (the unsweetened juice of unripe grapes and sometimes crabapples) and vinegar are most often called for when a liquid is needed. In later manuscripts influenced by Middle Eastern cooking, orange and lemon juice were sometimes used.

Verjuice and vinegar are distinctly sour ingredients, and the Saracens and Western Europeans juxtaposed them with sweeteners. Honey and dried fruits were used initially but were partially replaced with sugar, which remained quite rare and was treated as a spice. The medieval brouet (a kind of liquid stew) was sometimes sweetened with dates, raisins, or sugar.

The modern system of preparing stocks had not yet appeared, but beef bouillon and the cooking liquids of both meats and fish were bound with bread, almonds, and egg yolks to convert them into sauces.

Almost every medieval recipe includes spices such as saffron, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and long pepper. Rarely was the flavor or nuance of one spice emphasized in contrast with a dish. Instead, most dishes contain three or more spices with seemingly little attention to their relationship. Medieval texts (Taillevent’s Le Viandier and Le Ménagier de Paris) are filled with recipes for soups and ragoûts in which the element being prepared—liver, meat, fish—is puréed and used to bind the liquid.

When bread or almonds were used to bind sauces, they were pounded together at the beginning and moistened with verjuice, vinegar, wine, almond milk, and sometimes cow’s milk. When used, egg yolks were beaten and added at the end, just as they are today. In some recipes, liver (it is often not clear what kind) is used to thicken the sauce.

Although we do not know what the exact textures of sauces were like in medieval cooking, the eating habits of the times would have made it difficult if not impossible to appreciate a delicately balanced sauce. Most foods were served on thick slices of bread (trenchers) instead of plates and eaten with the fingers instead of with forks. If a sauce were too thin, it would have been absorbed by the bread. More than likely, sauces were thickened so they would cling to the foods and stay on top of the trenchers. Later, as plates came into more widespread use, it became possible to make thinner, more delicately thickened and flavored sauces that would not disappear into the bread. Two recipes from Taillevent’s Le Viandier follow.

Brouet de Canelle. Cook a chicken in water and wine or other liquid. Remove it from the liquid, and cut it into quarters. Cook the quarters in fat. Cook unpeeled almonds and cinnamon in beef broth. Grind them and strain them with beef bouillon, and moisten the chicken pieces with this liquid. Add verjuice, ginger, cloves, grains of paradise [Aframomum melegueta]. The sauce should be well bound.

Brouet Gorgié. Cut the chicken or meat being prepared into pieces. Cook the pieces in lard with finely chopped parsley and onions. Take livers, lightly toasted bread, wine, and beef broth, and boil everything together [the text is not clear whether these are boiled with the meat or separately]. Simmer the mixture until it thickens, and flavor with ginger, cloves, and saffron. Add verjuice.

Spice Mixture

Here is a spice mixture written about in the middle of the sixteenth century. Long pepper, grains of paradise, and galangal are sold online. Galangal can be found in shops that sell Thai ingredients.

yield: ½ cup (125 milliliters)

Stir together all the ingredients and store in a tightly sealed container in the freezer.

Use to dust chicken and seafood to lend a medieval flavor.

Adapting Medieval Recipes

Adapting historical recipes to modern tastes is an exciting means of designing new dishes that are still grounded in culinary tradition. The flavors, textures, and colors inherent in an old recipe can be adapted to modern tastes without losing sight of the original recipe. References to the aesthetic of the original can be made without compromising the dish’s flavor or appeal.

One can only guess at the intensity and balance of the flavors. Most authors assume that the spices were used in large quantities. Some have also assumed that spices were used carelessly because many spices were used in one preparation. Whether or not these assumptions are true is irrelevant to the modern cook, who is free to adapt historical recipes to today’s tastes. Obviously the quantities of spices used can be adjusted to taste, and a variety of spices in the same dish—as Indian curries prove—does not necessarily imply a careless hodgepodge of flavors.

The choice of liaison requires liberty on the part of the chef. Although bread is an interesting liaison (see "Bread"), a bread-thickened sauce may not be appealing in a contemporary dish. Binding sauces with nut butters, however, is both authentic and satisfying.

When experimenting with an unknown dish in which a variety of flavors meld—such as a medieval recipe containing three or more spices—infuse the spices individually in small amounts of liquid, such as stock or cream, and then gradually combine the liquids until the flavors of the spices are in balance.

Gold-Plated Chicken with Ginger, Saffron, and Almonds

This modern adaptation is not based on any particular recipe but is taken from several recipes in Taillevent’s Le Viandier (fourteenth-and fifteenth-century manuscripts). Ginger, saffron, and mint are the principal flavorings; ginger and saffron were the spices most often called for in medieval recipes, and mint was one of the most commonly used herbs. The sauce is bound with almond butter, a typical medieval liaison (bread can also be used). Green-colored marzipan almonds and pomegranate seeds are used as the garniture. The almonds are a reference to the medieval cook’s tendency to fashion one food from another to surprise and titillate the diner. They are sweet (and surprisingly good with the sauce), recalling the inclination to juxtapose the savory with the sweet in the medieval meal. The gold plating is extravagant and can be eliminated (or silver leaf can be substituted), but it is taken from an authentic recipe. Gold and silver foil are still used in Indian cooking to decorate desserts. Medieval diners were fond of bright colors, hence the gold, pomegranate seeds, saffron, and colored almonds.

yield: 4 servings

1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. In a 4-quart (4 liter) straight-sided sauté pan, cook the seasoned chicken pieces over medium heat, skin side down, in the butter or lard. After about 15 minutes, turn and cook until the flesh side is browned and the chicken is firm to the touch, about 10 minutes more. Avoid burning the butter. Remove the chicken and keep warm.

2. Add the onions to the butter in the pan and lightly brown.

3. Add the stock to the pan and reduce it down to a little less than a cup. Skim carefully. Strain and transfer to a 2-quart saucepan.

4. While the chicken is resting, work the almond paste with the food coloring until it is bright green. Shape the colored paste into 12 almonds and set aside.

5. Remove and reserve the seeds from the pomegranate. Discard the flesh.

6. Add the saffron threads and their soaking liquid to the saucepan with the stock.

7. Add the ginger to the liquid in the saucepan and let it infuse for 5 minutes. Chop the mint and add it to the pan.

8. Whisk in the almond butter until the sauce has the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Strain the sauce if desired.

9. Apply the gold or silver leaf: Press the gold side of the foil onto the chicken, then gently peel away the backing (see photo).

10. Serve the chicken with the sauce, pomegranate seeds, and green almonds.

Renaissance Cooking: the Sixteenth Century

Surprisingly little has been written about cooking in the sixteenth century. In France one important book was published, a translation of Bartolomeo Platina’s De Honeste voluptate. Whereas most other books were based on earlier works and were medieval in character, Platina gives us a deeper understanding of both the cooking and the priorities of Renaissance Italy and France. During the Renaissance and for several centuries thereafter, culinary methods were closely linked to health and medicine. Much of Platina’s writing was influenced by medieval medicine, which itself was based on Greek medicine with its elaborate system of humors and emphasis on the use of diet to balance the basic personalities: sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic.

The ingredient that appears in greater quantities in sixteenth-century recipes is sugar. Although by no means inexpensive, refining methods made it more accessible than it had been during the Middle Ages. Coupled with intense interest in gardening and cultivation, this resulted in new methods of preserving fruit, including jellies and jams as they are known today. Previously, fruits were preserved by drying or by storage in vinegar and honey.

Leeks with Almond Milk, Cinnamon, and Roses

Almond milk, extracted from almonds using hot water, was popular in medieval and Renaissance cooking as a substitute for dairy products. It can still be used today for its flavor and for vegan cooking. The rosewater is typical of the Renaissance; it and attar of roses are obtainable at Indian groceries.

yield: 6 servings

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Separately toast the whole almonds and sliced almonds in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool. Set aside the sliced almonds. Grind the whole almonds in a food processor for 5 minutes or until they have a pasty consistency. Put the mixture in a pot with the hot water. Bring to a simmer and let steep for 15 minutes. Work through a fine-mesh strainer. Reserve the liquid and discard the almonds, or grind them further with a mortar and pestle to use as a sauce thickener.

2. Add the rosewater or attar of roses, cinnamon, cream, and sugar to the almond milk. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Spread the leeks in an oval baking dish just large enough to hold them and pour over the almond milk. Bake until tender, about 35 minutes. Sprinkle over the sliced almonds and serve.

The Seventeenth Century

In the seventeenth century, French cooking began to distinguish itself from that of the rest of Europe; a new aesthetic developed with criteria that are much the same as those of today.

Particularly important to sauce making was the notion that food should taste of itself. Spices that disguised natural flavors were gradually abandoned. Sauces began to concentrate and emphasize the flavor of a particular dish rather than accent or distort it. Barbara Wheaton, in her book Savoring the Past, discusses how cooking over the centuries has gravitated from one pole to another on an aesthetic spectrum:

Cooks and diners have long argued over whether the best cooking makes food taste of itself or transmutes ingredients into something new and unrecognizable. To satisfy its advocates, food that tastes of itself should be locally produced and in season, served at the peak of its natural ripeness; in contrast, transmuted food is a compound of the rare, exotic, and the difficult, made from ingredients belonging to other places and seasons and produced by techniques that require special skills or equipment. From the sixteenth century onward, both points of view have had persuasive supporters; they are the extremes to which the pendulum swings. In the late sixteenth century, the early eighteenth century, and the nineteenth century the transmutationists usually prevailed; at other times the purists have had the upper hand. At present two parts of our society are pursuing separate paths: traditionalist cooks and diners interested in fine cooking emphasize recognizable ingredients; food technologists and the mass market are more interested in the final combination of flavors. Ironically, today the simpler ingredients are likely to be more expensive. Most of us would not recognize many of the ingredients prominent in processed foods. How many of us can differentiate, with eye, nose, or palate, among hydrolyzed vegetable protein, guar gum, and BHA? Food technologists claim that they can synthesize the flavors of our familiar foods, transmuting, for example, textured soy protein into bacon. Analogously, the chefs and confectioners who served the sixteenth-century diner contrived to astonish him by clever deceptions. The plates of sugar fish at the reception for Elizabeth of Austria exemplify this point of view. Then, as now, the willing suspension of disbelief on the part of the diner is essential.

The most obvious manifestation of this shift from one end of the aesthetic spectrum to the other was the complete abandonment of certain medieval spices (ginger, saffron, galangal, and others) and a moderate use of modern spices, especially pepper, which were less likely to distort the intrinsic flavor of foods.

As spices were less used, chefs relied more on indigenous herbs and vegetables to supply aromatic interest to their sauces and stews. Although medieval cooks used some herbs (especially mint, parsley, and hyssop), many of the herbs we use today (including tarragon, chervil, basil, and thyme) did not enter into the culinary mainstream until the seventeenth century.

Although onions were often called for in medieval recipes, aromatic ingredients such as shallots, carrots, and celery were little mentioned until the seventeenth century. Wild mushrooms and truffles, so prized in later centuries, were first used in seventeenth-century recipes. Savory ingredients such as anchovies, capers, and cornichons (sour gherkins) also gradually made their way into French cooking and sauce making.

Another noticeable difference between cooking texts of the Middle Ages and those of the seventeenth century is the substitution of butter for lard. In Taillevent’s Le Viandier, lard is the fat most often used for the preparation of the flavor base, usually sweated onions. In the seventeenth century, butter is used not only to brown or sweat ingredients but also as a component in sauces.

The principal liquid flavorings used in medieval sauces, vinegar and verjuice, are extremely acidic. Remnants of these sauces can be seen in simple green sauces flavored with herbs, especially mint and sorrel (see Mint Sauce for Lamb). These plain vinegar-based sauces are still sometimes served with cold roasts. Although vinegar and other acidic liquids continued to be used, their acidity was attenuated by combining them with oil (somewhat equivalent to modern cold and hot vinaigrette), coulis (like a modern sauce Robert), and butter.

The following recipe, from L’Art de bien traiter by L.S.R. (1674), is for a butter-bound white sauce similar to a beurre blanc. It also contains capers, anchovies, oranges, and lemons, all of which are typical seventeenth-century ingredients. The recipe, which was originally designed to be served with pike, is a fairly exact translation of the original and suggests that all the ingredients be put in the pan at the beginning. A more reliable approach would be to make an infusion with all the ingredients except the butter and then whisk in the butter in the same way as when preparing a beurre blanc.

In a saucepan combine fresh butter, 1 or 2 spoonfuls of court-bouillon, a pinch of salt and white pepper, capers, several slices of lemon or orange, nutmeg (optional), and one anchovy (desalted and chopped). Stir the sauce with a wooden or silver spoon [over the heat] until the sauce binds and thickens. Serve the sauce immediately so that it does not turn into oil, which is most undesirable and disgusting in a bound sauce.

Medieval sauces would have contained more acidic ingredients and some additional spices, but no butter, making them very strong. This implies that the medieval concept of a sauce was similar to the modern view of condiments such as mustard. The idea of a suave, delicate sauce that gently supported the flavor of a dish had not yet come into being.

Medieval and Roman sauces often contained both sweet and sour ingredients: varying combinations of verjuice and vinegar with honey, dried fruits, cooked wine must (raisiné), and later, sugar. Although some of these sweet-and-sour combinations still exist—gastrique, red currant jelly in a Sauce Grand-Veneur, mint sauce for roast lamb, duck with orange sauce—their use declined rapidly in the seventeenth century.

The basic mixtures that function as cornerstones in French cooking—the bouillons, stuffings, and liaisons—were first categorized at this time. What later became a cohesive cooking system—expanded in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—that still forms the basis for French cooking today started in the seventeenth century.

One of the most important innovations was the introduction of roux (farine frite). Before then, toasted bread was the thickener most often used in sauce making. Although bread has certain advantages (a less floury taste), roux provides a smoother-textured sauce and became the thickener of choice well into the twentieth century. When first used, roux was an integral step in the preparation of a coulis, the concentrated veal or beef essence that was critical to seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French cooking. The meat was cooked with bouillon and aromatic vegetables until it attached to the bottom of the pot and began to caramelize. (The term pincer was later used in French cookbooks to describe this process.) Flour was then added to the caramelized juices and cooked until it took on a toasty smell or turned a reddish color (probably the origin of the term roux). This method of thickening is still used for making stews and gravies, but in classic sauces, roux is prepared separately and measured before being combined with stock. The older method, pincer, is rarely used because it is very difficult to cook both the meat and the vegetables properly in one vessel: The former burns or the latter remain raw. (In the early twentieth century, Escoffier warned against it and instead recommended careful sweating of the aromatic vegetables and separate browning or searing of meats on the stove or in the oven.)

In the seventeenth century, a system of preparing intensely flavored liquid bases from enormous quantities of meat was used. A jus was prepared by browning large pieces of meat, poking the meat with a knife, then putting it in

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